Interview: Owners Lack Trust in BWMS Technical Capability

Image Courtesy: Ballast Water Centre

As the entrance into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) approaches, the industry’s sentiment on retrofitting ships with BWM systems seems to shift more to the negative side, based on several industry bodies World Maritime News spoke with.

Speaking on the preparedness of shipowners to comply with the new requirements, Yildiz Williams, Senior Marine Consultant, Marine & Offshore, Lloyd’s Register, says that the majority of shipowners are ready in terms of paperwork preparedness – they either already have or are in the process of getting their ballast water management plans ready and approved and getting their internal ballast water management certificates issued.

However, in terms of getting ready for the D-2 standard there is generally a lower level of preparedness, but this is because it’s not an immediate requirement after entry into force, following IMO’s decision at MEPC 71 to delay dates for the D-2 standard compliance.

Based on LR’s prediction there are about 30,000 vessels that will need to retrofit.

“There is a growing number of owners that have fitted systems onboard their vessels and are actively operating their ballast water treatments systems (BWTS) to ensure reliability and crew familiarity,” Thomas Kirk, Director, Environmental Performance, Global Marine, ABS, commented.

On the other hand, according to Williams, the biggest concern that the shipowners have is the lack of trust in the technical capability of the ballast water management systems available.

This is among the key reasons behind owners’ unwillingness to invest in retrofits, as explained by Williams: “because shipowners don’t see this as a benefit to them.”

“However they have to invest to comply with the requirements. If they cannot comply then they cannot operate.”

“They want to ensure that the system can operate in different conditions and that it can operate without breaking down. Owners probably do not want to scrap their vessels early so they are willing to invest in retrofits because they want to be compliant,” she added.

Speaking from an engineering perspective Kirk says that the engineering involved in retrofitting a BWM system is far from trivial.

“Space is a major constraint as are available power and hydraulics. This means that the team must first identify what space and how much power is available, which must be done before determining which systems will be suitable and provide the requisite flow rates. The configuration of ballast tanks is an important factor, especially with respect to the ability to perform treatment or neutralization during discharge.

“Owners must consider the impact of treatment during ballasting. Similarly, many systems place constraints on vessels for additional treatment or neutralization during de-ballasting. Owners should also carefully consider the trade and ballast profile of their vessel when determining the best fit from the available technology.”

With regard to space-related constraints, Williams said that there are companies that deal with fitting these systems.

“But still we encourage our clients to speak to manufacturers and the installation companies early on to understand whether a system is suitable for their technical and operational profile. It is a challenge but it’s not impossible and it can certainly be done and the impact can be reduced if it is well planned in advance. Of course, the ship’s operability will be affected to a certain extent. We also encourage them to speak to us very early on as there are particular class requirements that need to be met as well. LR offers a range of services to the industry on how to select a suitable system and fit it with the least impact,” she added.

One of the key issues to be tackled is the training of personnel on how to operate the new equipment, once the BWM systems are installed.  

“Proper training forms an essential element of a well-implemented ballast water management plan. Some companies have indicated that they are sending their shoreside management as well as their senior officers to vendor-specific training. Others are looking at computer-based and/or video training. Some owners are already in the initial phases of establishing criteria to verify the competency of those trained,” Kirk noted.

As part of a BWM plan all owners and operators must have a training plan in place, this is a mandatory requirement. They have to ensure personnel are trained and that a ballast water management officer is on board – this is not necessarily a person as it is a rank, so if one person leaves then there is a continuity of the BWM officer. It is their responsibility to ensure that the crew onboard are familiar with the requirements of the Convention and if they have a system on board, that they understand how to operate it. LR encourages our clients to speak to the manufacturers early if they are fitting a system so that they are well trained to use it,” Williams cautioned.

World Maritime News Staff

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